WORDS: SIOBHAN LEDDY
IMAGES: CHRISTOPHER RUDQUIST / COURTESY MUSEUM OF EVERYTHING
I’m at the Museum of Everything, staring at my twisted reflection in a concave mirror. Behind me, ladies with bubble perms chatter as they sip tea from impractically small teacups. It’s a perfect start to the third exhibition from the museum: a collection of folk art, taxidermy, circus posters and kitsch ephemera collected by the great pop-artist Peter Blake over sixty years.
A corridor lined with 19th century postcards leads you away from the mirrors, which almost entirely date from that uncomfortable ‘freakshow’ obsessed segment of history. Bearded ladies gaze out from the wall, causing the more paranoid among us to double-check our chins. Such abundant facial hair is far from commonplace on women today, and I have to wonder how our ancestors managed to reach such Jerry Garcia proportions with their beards.
Taxidermy also plays its part in the exhibition. There’s been a macabre renaissance in all things stuffed of late, with contemporary artists like Polly Morgan selling wares to the synth-playing East London crowd. Despite my distaste for the taxidermy trend, seeing mice cadavers dressed up and arranged into narrative scenes was too bonkers not to like. Clearly all that corsetry and stifling decorum had a profound effect on the Victorians.
This exhibition is fundamentally different to any other. At any other gallery, you amble between canvases, pausing at anything that catches your eye. Here it feels as though you’re being led down Peter Blake’s rabbit hole (meant in the Lewis Carroll sense, lest there be any confusion). Each room is vastly different in size and height, and by the fourth room I had no idea how to get out again. Being in the Museum of Everything is a bit like being in a Roald Dahl book.
For want of a better word, or at least a word that isn’t the sole domain of 90s children’s presenters, the place is pretty wacky. And wonderful, in equal measure.
Until December 24th 2010 at the Museum of Everything.